Chuck Berry dies; for me it was a teenage wedding

March 19, 2017

It was a teenage wedding, and the old folks wished them well…

That first line from the song “You Never Can Tell” is what came to mind just now when I read that Chuck Berry, the black musician, known for his unique guitar licks and his duck walk while performing, had died at age 90.

The news was that he died today, Saturday, March 18, 2017.

My mom liked the song I think because it sounded to her like my marriage, which she opposed at the time. And all these years later I don’t blame her. Both my wife and I know she was right, even if we did make that marriage last for just shy of 43 years, when my wife died.

My wife was just 16, almost 17, and I had just recently turned 18 when we were married in November of 1967. Later, neither one of us would have advised anyone so young to marry.

My mom had nothing against my late wife. She just knew that life can be rough and that we were too young.

Oh, my mom was I think only 18 or so when she was married. And the Great Depression hit not long after. My folks stayed together — till death did they part.

Young people only know what is in their hearts. And they want to enjoy life and each other and be happy.

Berry was not so young when he became popular — he was already in his 30s. But he was a pioneer in rock ‘n’ roll. And so many artists would later virtually copy his lyrics and style.

I lost my youth a long time ago. I lost my wife seven years ago. And now we have all lost Chuck Berry.

Life goes on. But somehow, to me, it is almost as if the music has died.





On the death of John Glenn and men like him: the real heroes did not have to brag…

December 9, 2016

The death Thursday (12-8-16) of John Glenn at 95, first American astronaut to orbit the earth in space, reminded me of how different it is now than then, then being the early 1960s. It was an exciting and exhilarating time. We had a young Democratic Party president from a super-rich family who did not see government as the enemy but more of an engine to do good for a nation on the move. And he did not spend time bragging on himself (even if his father had bragged on him).

I don’t recall Glenn bragging on himself either, it was just apparent. It did not need to be said.

President John F. Kennedy declared that we would land a man on the moon within the decade, and we did, and this was done by the government, but that government mission also had a major spinoff of so many uses and products in the private sector. And think of all the government contracts for private industry — all the employment. But only government could have gone out on a limb to do this.

The populace as a whole was not anti-government but it did buy into the argument during the new president’s campaign that our country was in stagnation and needed to move forward. There was an economic recession. And the Democrats argued that we had fallen behind the Soviets in missile technology and production and the space race during the Republican Eisenhower administration. In 1957 the Soviets had shocked the world by launching the first space satellite. It looked like they had surpassed the U.S.

I remember the family going out into our backyard in the Central Valley of California and watching Sputnik pass overhead like a moving star.

But the reality was that we were not really behind, maybe just a bit more cautious. For one thing, the Russians had sent up some capsules previous to their official flights, with dogs and reportedly even with at least one human cosmonaut, who did not survive. We sent up at least one chimpanzee before sending a man up. Both the chimpanzee and the man made it back.

But then after the Soviet Union beat us in manned flight into space, we soon sent Allan Shepard up and then Gus Grissom, both flights simply going up and then down, and then John Glenn, who actually orbited the earth. We were solidly back in the game and took the lead over the Soviet Union.

Glenn was lucky he made it back to earth. On the way down the heat shield on his capsule was disintegrating. He could feel the heat and see the sparks or flames, but later said he knew the only thing to do was to keep calm and apply his training — if the worst happened it would be over in an instant.

JFK of course was assassinated in 1963. But in 1969 we were the first and only nation to put a man on the moon.

All this glory thanks in large part to a president who had been a World War II hero and astronauts like Glenn, veterans too. Glenn served in both WWII and the Korean War.

Glenn went on to be a U.S. Senator from Ohio, a member of the Democratic Party, but a centrist in public policy for most of his long tenure, and he had other successful endeavors throughout his life. By all accounts he was an unassuming man, more given to hard work and service to his country, not so much boasting.

Today we have a billionaire headed to the White House who made his money by questionable means and who is boastful and who is disrespectful to the institutions of government and to war veterans — bashing John McCain, who served years in North Vietnam as a prisoner of war and refused to succumb to their propaganda trick of offering him an early release so they could make it look like the son of a Navy admiral got special treatment and maybe even betrayed his country.

President-elect Donald Trump claimed he was not impressed with McCain because he got captured. Trump dodged his way out of the service during Vietnam. Trump also insulted the family of a fallen American soldier in the war in Iraq. Trump may or may not have rescinded some of his remarks in both cases or had others do it for him, I forget, but that is what he does when someone criticizes him or he thinks they did — he lashes out like a child, usually on the social network device of Twitter, where you can spew out random thoughts without thinking in an instant for the world to see.

I can’t imagine such actions from the likes of JFK or Glenn or men of that stature.

Our society has changed. It seems we no longer revere such people or there are few such people to revere.

Trump says he will “make America great again”.

But I think it is the likes of people as him that is threatening our decline.







Not a fan of Nancy in life, but in death I miss her…

March 6, 2016

Of course obituaries usually stress the positive about people. But I was impressed after just now reading the obituary of former first lady Nancy Reagan, who died today at the age of 94.

I don’t know if I would have liked her if I had ever met her or been around her, probably not though. I was not a fan or hers for sure (for some weird reason she always reminded me of one or more of the prissy, prickly landladies of my past). But I have to give the woman her due. She was a hard worker and supported her husband, and I am sure a true patriot.

I just saw her as a condescending rich Republican with an icy smile. And then I think of Hillary Clinton, another former first lady (and now of course presidential candidate), a condescending rich Democrat with an icy smile.

You really can’t know a person by their on-screen persona, as it were.

I have to wonder what Mrs. Reagan thought of Donald Trump (sorry, you just cannot write about politics or anything remotely connected to politics these days without mentioning the Donald).

Certainly Trump does not represent the civility or wholesomeness of the Reagans or other established political figures of our times. No, Trump represents the vulgar worst in our society. Just because he from time to time brings up subjects that need airing does not offset the harm he is doing, the harm he has done.

So I do not have much more to say on all of this, just that the passing of Mrs. Reagan at such a time as this is emblematic of the old (and much better) ways going out, with the new and much worse ways taking over.

If only Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich could have gained some traction. It seems, though, that he or no other one like him has a chance in today’s political climate.

I for one think it would be good to have a woman president. I am not sure that Hillary is the one we need, although it looks as if she may well be the one we get. And she may well do a good job and maintain some semblance of civility in an increasingly uncivil society. I don’t know.

Too bad Nancy was not younger.

I knew very little really of Mrs. Reagan.

But I miss her somehow. I miss the old ways.



As the first black leader of South Africa Nelson Mandela earned his place in history, he didn’t just come out of nowhere with charm…

December 6, 2013


He went from spending almost 30 years in prison, as a black nationalist, to becoming the first black leader of the nation of South Africa, marking the end of rule by the white minority there and the legalized segregation that was called apartheid. Nelson Mandela has died at the age of 95.

I am not well versed on the man as perhaps I should be, although of course I have read and heard about him all these many years in the news.

But he was a fighter for his people — the people who by rights should have been in charge of the nation for so long, the native people, the majority.

And refreshingly, he was not a thug. Unfortunately, and maybe I should not mention it now, but his former wife, Winnie Mandela, was reportedly a bad actor, noted for promoting the practice of putting tires around the necks of opponents and then lighting the tires on fire (and I’m talking black-on-black violence).

By all accounts, Nelson Mandela was a man of peace. He won the Nobel Peace Prize. He shared the peace prize with the last white president of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk, for their work on ending apartheid.

(Ironically, according to a piece in Huffington Post, Mandela was still on the U.S. terrorist watch list as of 2008.)

He was the first of his race to make it to the top leadership position in South Africa — but he didn’t just come out of nowhere with a gift of oratory or charisma — he earned it (a snarky innuendo aimed at someone else? maybe).

To see or hear many in our (U.S.) government laud him now it’s hard to realize that he was considered unwelcome here by our government some years ago. In Cold War terms he seemed too cozy with the communists. In addition he had the audacity to criticize the U.S. even after the Cold War ended. He opposed President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq.

And after making my original and then updated posts, I read a long piece about Mandela on the New York Times website (which for some reason did not put up the pay wall against me) that both refreshed some things I may have known about Mandela and obviously gave me a lot of new insight. But some of the things that stand out are that he seemed to prefer peace but found at times armed conflict was necessary (although he does not seem to have had much of a direct role in that), and that he was not a communist, although for convenience at one time he may have joined the party, and that he took support from where he cold get it (to include the communists), and that despite being put to hard labor in prison and tormented by white guards (some helped him, though), once in power he did not seek retribution but instead chose cooperation and reconciliation between the races. And of course he was an educated man, so that made a lot of difference. And everyone in South Africa did not live happily ever after once he was in power — imagine that.

Margaret Thatcher dies, but the Republicans could be reborn with someone like her…

April 8, 2013

Not that I want to help out the Republicans, but with the news today of the death of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, it occurred to me that maybe that is what the GOP needs next time around in the race for the White House. That is their version of Margaret Thatcher. A super strong woman who could articulate conservative values. It would be such a GOP Thatcher vs. no doubt Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side, representing of course the more liberal point of view.

No one comes to mind who could fit the bill for the Republicans, but it seems to me that they do indeed need a woman (I mean it seemed the nation couldn’t resist and finally elected a black president, maybe the next time it could not resist a woman — and really who can?). Where they would find a Margaret Thatcher, heaven knows.

With this in mind, I recycle an old post (July 8, 2012). A slightly condensed and edited portion of it follows:

My 101-year-old mom and I were discussing the similarities and dissimilarities between the late President Ronald Reagan and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, both of whom were said to be great friends, sharing political beliefs built on conservatism.

This was not a super serious discussion, but we noted that both were conservatives and both had mental states that declined as they aged, Reagan suffering from Alzheimer’s and Thatcher said to be suffering from dementia of some kind now.

My mom said: well I guess you have to be smart in the first place to lose your smarts (or something to that effect).

I offered that certainly Mrs. Thatcher seemed like one smart lady — quite articulate and quick witted when facing questions before parliament, where the members love to hoot and holler and often try to embarrass the speaker (I love to watch the parliamentary question session because the head of the government has to actually face his or her opposition, live, in person, and see if he or she can withstand the onslaught — and if you are worth your salt, you lose nothing in the process and may gain in stature. And if you can’t stand it, you probably get “sacked” — thrown out — as they say in England, and probably deservedly so).

Got off the track here as often is the case: Anyway, I then noted that although Mr. Reagan was a sharp dresser and probably did present himself well (most of the time) as the head of state of the United States, he was no intellectual, in fact his bulb seemed a bit dull at times. I’m thinking he had at least average intelligence, though, and he at least had the skill to remember his lines, actor by profession that he was, and how to take advantage of having friends and the special interests who supported him.

Mom, lifelong liberal (she proudly proclaims that she is a “bleeding heart liberal”) seemed to agree with that.

What brought up Mrs. Thatcher was that I had been watching some YouTube videos of her and was quite impressed (I had seen her on TV long ago, but this reminded me).

Way back in Reagan’s time she predicted the downfall of the European economy by melding dissimilar economies together in one currency and by leaning toward socialism. Britain kept its pound sterling.

She also had a quick comeback to a Labor Party member who complained about the ever-widening income gap between rich and poor. While I did not pick up on how accurate she was in characterizing what he said, her retort was something like: the right honorable gentleman is quite content for the poor to be poorer, as long as the rich have less. She also charged that socialism stifles opportunity for all.

Mrs. Thatcher did not say anything more than our own conservatives here in the United States do today, but she said it with much more eloquence and authority, but in a matter that was not so harsh, the fact that she was known as the “Iron Lady” notwithstanding.

I’m not turning conservative — I maintain I am middle of the road — but I wish we had our own Margaret Thatcher running for president today.

Of the late Hugo Chávez: what did still another demagogue accomplish?

March 7, 2013

I’m not really qualified to comment on the now Late Hugo Chavez (but that won’t stop me), who served as dictator of Venezuela. He came and went and I only caught news of his antics from time to time and paid little to no attention.

I think it’s safe to say he was a demagogue.

He appealed to the poor and often ignorant masses, even though he himself lived in luxury. He was a poor boy who reached the highest rung on the ladder, via the military. Interestingly enough, he managed to get into politics after a failed coup attempt in which he took part and served some prison time for. He may or may have not done some good things for people in Venezuela but I am not aware that he did anything to change the state of affairs in which wealthy elites run the show and most everyone else is kept ignorant and poor.

In Argentina the late Juan Perón created a political movement designed to appeal to everyone, the rich and the poor and the middle class, and most of all designed to keep him in power.

In Cuba, a rich man’s son, Fidel Castro, led a socialist revolution that was supposed to uplift the masses. But mostly it just uplifted Castro and his buddies and the Cuban Communist Party members. I think they did reportedly do a fairly decent job in providing health care, at least that is what I have heard.

Mexico is just corrupt. Always has been, and seems like will be for some time to come. The payoff and dependence on the patrón seems to be ingrained in the Mexican culture. The ongoing drug war feeds off the notion that the only way to riches is through crime and corruption.

As long as the masses can be stirred by class warfare, democracy and a raise in the standard of living for all is hard to achieve. Dictators will play off the prejudices and fears of the people and reap the benefits of what society produces for them.

Chávez is being played up as hero I notice in much of the Latin American press and elsewhere. Being anti-U.S. is often good politics south of the border.

But why do so many come north then?


Probably things will change for the better in Latin America, and in fact have in many ways. But the problem or the difference may be that the U.S.’s  history is of people coming here for equal opportunity and the notion there is no class system. In Latin America generations have been raised in a class society made up of predominantly two classes, the rich and the poor (very little middle class, although it has made some strides in places). The rich do everything they can to maintain the status quo. The poor learn how to operate in a society of favors and bribes and protection offered by paternal figures, who in turn demand support from those to whom they offer protection. In the past, I think, the U.S. took a wrong-headed approach in supporting dictators down south because at least they were anti-communist. In the process, a lot of bad will was created in what was seen as Yankee imperialism. It might have been better to let it play out. Communism falls on its own. It just does not work.

The big bear of a general has died…

December 28, 2012

A big bear of an army general has died. And maybe he was the last of the true fighting generals rather than the some of the air conditioned-office-bound emailing philanderers we see today.

Gen. “Stormin’ Norman” Schwarzkopf has died at age 78.

I just read and article with some of his famous quotes, but the one that stood out to me was not in that article but was in the initial news reports of his death. Well, it was a partial quote. He is reported to have referred to the now late Gen. Westmoreland as a “horse’s ass”.

With all due respects to the other late general (who got a bad rap over Vietnam), there is something about a man who tells it like it is or at least like he thinks it is.

I’m not going to write a bunch of stuff extolling the virtues of Gen. Schwarzkopf because even though I have read many great things about him I don’t really feel I know that much about him. But I think he is what we want in a general. First of all no personal scandal, and then:

Gen. Schwarzkopf was a huge man and looked like a leader (big guys always have that advantage). He had real combat experience as a junior officer in Vietnam. He saved a bunch of fellow GIs from a minefield. And he may have been our last general to actually win a war — the first Gulf War. Well, actually I have to qualify that a little. He did win his part of it if you consider his mission was to chase Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. It was not  his fault that the powers that be got cold feet and did not take the action all the way back to Baghdad, settling for quitting while we were ahead.

And I have to say, I think I just read yesterday that Schwarzkopf was quoted as saying something to the effect that he was “lucky” that he was able to be the guy in charge in a winning battle. Be that as it may, the winning quarterback gets the glory.

And we as a nation were “lucky” to have this man in our service.

Rest in Peace General Schwarzkopf.


One problem, if you want to call it that, is that unless we have wars our officers and enlisted men can’t get real combat experience. And it is probably not fair to criticize someone for not having real combat experience if it was never offered. Also, I have to recall that one of our greatest military leaders and a great president as well (in my estimation anyway) was Dwight Eisenhower, who served as Supreme Allied Commander in Word War II. He had no actual combat experience, even though he was in the service already during World War I. But even though wars are different now, they are just as deadly, and we should have loads of potential leaders getting experience for some future time. It’s a terrible business, but someone has to do it.

Entire newscast devoted to Cronkite’s death; would he have done it that way?

July 18, 2009

Somehow I think the late Walter Cronkite would have been embarrassed and even a little sad that his old CBS Evening News show had come to this – devoting its whole half-hour broadcast Friday night to the reporting of his death (well, he might feel sad that he was the one who died, but I meant sad for what his former newscast has come to). Apparently as far as Katie Couric’s version or the modern CBS management’s version of the evening news is that’s the way it is today. The network news has become irrelevant as a reliable source for a re-cap of all the day’s news. Michael Jackson got the same exclusive treatment.

That’s a far cry from when Mr. Cronkite, who died Friday at the age of 92, was at the helm as the anchorman of the CBS Evening News and was known as “the most trusted man in America”.

Of course both he and Jackson were celebrities and as such merited coverage upon their death, but a serious news broadcast does not devote its entire length to an obituary of one of its own or of a pop star.

And I think it’s kind of my job or interest to comment on current events and bring up inconsequential things, so on the subject of Mr. Cronkite’s trustworthiness, kind of like your favorite uncle, that’s where I learned the word “avuncular” (uncle like). I was reading a story about Walter Cronkite years ago, maybe sometime in the early 90s, and the writer used that word to describe America’s most famous news anchor. Sometime later and while I was working for a newspaper I did a story on an assistant principal at a high school who all the kids seemed to like and look up to and I used the word avuncular to describe him. Got a lot of comments on that. “Avuncular” people would say with a slight smile, as if maybe I was throwing fancy words around. No, it just seemed to fit at the time.

While I certainly watched Mr. Cronkite a lot through the years, my earliest memories of concentrating on the nightly network news are of watching NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, one in Washington and one in New York. I understand they were in the solid lead in ratings among the three networks when Mr. Cronkite became anchor in 1962.

But what I admired about Mr. Cronkite was that he was an old newspaper and wire service reporter. He was to me a real newsman, who happened to get into broadcasting and was quite good at it.

He was not ugly, but of course he’d never make it starting up in the business today up against the pretty boys and pretty girls.

And that makes me think of some of the long-gone TV news correspondent pioneers. I can recall some rather good correspondents, one man who seemed to have bad teeth or braces or something and some women who were rather plain or dowdy, but you didn’t expect them to look good, they were just reporting the news – remember when it was the news that was featured.

Nowadays it often seems more of a beauty contest and there is a lot of interviewing each other and endless professional pundits. Although, interestingly enough, I think the idea of a bunch of professional news people and mouthpieces sitting around giving their opinions may have gotten its start with the coverage of political conventions, in which Mr. Cronkite took part.

To some extent, broadcast news has moved beyond the tunnel vision of the one camera and the correspondent interpreting for you what is happening with a broader picture and more sources (I think I am correct in that). And when you add the interesting but somewhat confusing and unreliable element of so-called citizen journalism, things have moved way, way beyond the Cronkite era.

But there is something to be missed from that era when the avuncular Mr. Cronkite removed those thick-rimmed glasses and announced the death of President Kennedy, choking back tears. Uncle Walter was telling us something terrible had happened.

And when he admittedly broke away from his usual mode of being super objective and not taking sides when reporting the news and told his audience that the Vietnam War was hopeless, President Lyndon Johnson is said to have commented that he knew he had lost the war or the public’s support of it at that point.

Objectivity in journalism is the ideal, but sometimes you just have to tell the truth and tell them “that’s the way it is”.

ADD 1:

I turned on the TV Saturday night and it was as if they were re-running Katie Couric’s Friday night broadcast — it was all about Walter Cronkite’s death again. I turned to ABC and the news had been pre-empted for a sports event, and then I turned to NBC and it was leading off with Walter Cronkite’s death — so I knew he was still dead. With all due respect, I hope they have found a new story tonight (Sunday night).

RIP Uncle Walter……

ADD 2:

Watched CBS News Sunday night and they did have other news, along with Cronkite’s continuing death.